"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chesterton on Art

“A man wandering about a race-course, making bets that nobody took seriously, would be merely a bore. And so the hero wandering through a novel, making vows of love that nobody took seriously, is merely a bore. The point here is not so much that morally it cannot be a creditable story, but that artistically it cannot be a story at all. Art is born when the temporary touches the eternal; the shock of beauty is when the irresistible force hits the immovable post.”  --G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton, G.K. Fancies Versus Fads. 1923. Accessed 9 April 2012 <http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/Fancies_Versis_Fads.txt>

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Not to Itemize but to Generalize

Michael J. Lewis, in an article on architecture entitled The Decline of American Monuments and Memorials, gives his opinion of why American art is uncomfortable with itself and unable to approach coherent greatness. Speaking of both the plastic arts and the written, he says:

"Allegory requires an imaginative act, and is literary, whereas our culture is uncomfortable with figurative language. This began around 1977, the moment the language censors began to attack phrases like “Man does not live on bread alone,” asking “What about women?” A painful literalism set in, which is hostile to figurative language in speech and to abstract allegory in art. Nowadays we tend to think literally rather than literarily, which explains why Frederick Hart had to portray the American military experience in Vietnam by means of three men of three distinct races—and why a women’s memorial was subsequently added. [Even though to the 58,000 male soldiers killed there were only 7 women killed.] The fear of leaving someone or something out is hostile to the allegorical impulse, which seeks not to itemize but to generalize, and to speak not specific truths but great truths. It is not surprising that a culture ill at ease with the notion of absolute truth would find it very difficult to make monuments that show urgency and conviction."

HT: Hillsdale College Imprimis

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"My heart warn't right"

“It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn't try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn't come. Why wouldn't they? It warn't no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn't come. It was because my heart warn't right; it was because I warn't square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing... but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie—I found that out.”  --Huckleberry Finn

In this scene, Huck Finn has an excellent grasp of what is required for a relationship with God. Not only does he realize that a person “can't pray a lie,” but he also knows that, “I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all” (1383). Huck is verbalizing one of the worst problems with prideful man's condition: repenting in word but not in deed. Wanting to have the cake and eat it too. Huck Finn realizes that this won't work. God requires true repentance, not a halfhearted or faked repentance. It is not surprising that Mark Twain picked up on this double-dealing by many people and embodied it in one of his most famous characters. Twain had an ever observant eye out for hypocrisy in every aspect of life. Huck eventually makes the intellectually honest decision not to pray what he doesn't feel inside. How many times, if we looked at our own lives, would we find that Huck is more honest with God about his heart's true condition than we are.

Twain, Mark. Huckleberry Finn. The Norton Anthology of America Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. Shorter 6th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003. Print